"So you recommend conformity because it's easier?"
"I'm not recommending that you blindly conform or blindly rebel. Just keep your eyes open, and pay more attention to your heart's highest wisdom than to indulging or denying random impulses or desires. Follow Martin Luther's guidance on integrity: 'Love God and do as you please'."
Do as you please, I thought, wondering for a moment whether this were some kind of invitation, and what I would do if it were. My ruminations were soon interrupted by the sage's words as she slipped back into her clothes and indicated that I should do the same. "As I was saying, Traveler, the Law of Integrity calls forth a genuine expression of our internal reality. It also recognizes that if envy, greed, and manipulation influence our actions or expression, the consequences are inevitable, built into the mechanics of the universe. In breaking spiritual law, the act itself is the punishment, setting into motion subtle forces whose consequences we cannot escape any more than we can escape the law of gravity."
By this time we had walked deeper into the valley, where steep hillsides and thick foliage muffled the sounds of our passing. Lost in thought about convention, desires, and integrity, I nearly collided with the sage, who had stopped to point at a lizard peeking out of a rock crevice. "That lizard is not trying to be something else," she said. Then she began pointing toward one object after the next, saying, "That is a tree. There is a brook - "
"Yes," I interrupted. "I see them."
"But can you feel them?"
"I'm not sure what you mean.
"Unlike the creatures of the natural world, humans are surrounded by social artifice, cut off from their own true natures."
Then, speaking almost in a whisper, she said, "The shamans-the healers of the native peoples-practice the art of shape-shifting. This art is not as much about changing your body as expanding your awareness into an animal, a tree, or a stream in order to feel them-to learn their lessons - identifying with each one so that you feel its inner qualities and 'become' it. This is possible because your larger Self contains all these things."
"What does this have to do with the Law of Integrity?"
"I thought you might ask," she said, smiling. "My friend Lao-tzu once said, 'The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white; nor must you do anything but be yourself.' The natural world is ripe with such authenticity; the rushing stream, the moving wind, and the chirping crickets are content to be themselves. Are you content to be who you are completely - to be nothing more, nothing less?"
"What if I want to become something more?" I asked.
"More?" The sage smiled. "How could you be more? You are already limitless, boundless! When you die, Traveler, no one at the gates of heaven will ask if you were a saint; they will ask you if you were yourself.
"The wisdom of the ages," she continued, "from Plato to Shakespeare, reminds us, 'Know thyself,' end 'To shine own self be true.' Integrity means being integrated, knowing ourselves and being ourselves, so that our actions are authentic, consistent with our highest intentions - so that our body, mind, emotions, and attitudes complement one another, forming a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
"It's meaningless to speak of integrity until we understand our innermost drives, values, and motives-until we accept who we are rather than who we hope or pretend to be. One person may give to the poor out of love and compassion; another may give out of guilt, or the need to impress others. Each shows charity; only one shows integrity. Motives and intent make a vast difference in the lives of both givers and recipients, because we give far more than coins; we give the currency of the self'